|Publication number||US7877448 B2|
|Application number||US 11/780,100|
|Publication date||Jan 25, 2011|
|Filing date||Jul 19, 2007|
|Priority date||Jul 19, 2007|
|Also published as||US20090024706|
|Publication number||11780100, 780100, US 7877448 B2, US 7877448B2, US-B2-7877448, US7877448 B2, US7877448B2|
|Inventors||Janani Janakiraman, Basu Vaidyanathan|
|Original Assignee||International Business Machines Corporation|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (40), Referenced by (1), Classifications (5), Legal Events (4)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
1. Technical Field
The present invention generally relates to an electronic mail (e-mail) system and in particular to manipulating e-mail. Still more particularly, the present invention relates to a method for manipulating outgoing e-mail.
2. Description of the Related Art
Electronic mail (e-mail) is extensively utilized as a professional, educational, and personal mode of communication. E-mail is a method of composing, sending, and/or receiving messages over an electronic communication system. E-mail messages may be sent over the Internet or within an intranet system which allows users within the network of an organization to e-mail each other. An e-mail may be sent to a single recipient, or multiple recipients, simultaneously.
Several problems exist with sending a single e-mail to multiple recipients. When e-mail is sent to a large set of people or “mass e-mailing,” additional text may be inserted into the body of the e-mail stating the e-mail has been sent by an automated agent. Typically, in such cases the reply e-mail address is an account that directs messages to a trash bin. However, in some cases, receiving a reply from one or more of the recipients may be advantageous.
Also, when sending an e-mail to multiple recipients utilizing a valid reply address, the send may not desire an influx of reply e-mails. An influx of responding e-mails may cause a violation of e-mail storage space. Violating e-mail storage constraints may cause temporary suspension of the e-mail account, thereby, preventing the delivery of incoming e-mail messages. Failure for a chief operating official to receive one extremely important e-mail could be detrimental to an entire agency.
Although suspension of an e-mail account due to a mass influx of e-mails is not desired, there are times when a reply is warranted from some recipients in the mass mailing, but not all. For example, a mass e-mail may be distributed to an entire company, for the information of all employees. However, the original sender of the e-mail may only desire the response of managers and supervisors. In this situation a reply from all employees is not warranted.
Disclosed is a method for assigning reply status to an outgoing electronic mail (e-mail) message. While creating an e-mail message, an interface is provided for granularly assigning or denying reply privileges to recipients of an outgoing e-mail message. Reply status is assigned by selecting a subset of recipients by name, e-mail address, and/or e-mail group who may reply to the e-mail. As the recipient's reply status is modified, the outgoing e-mail is updated, revising the reply e-mail address for each recipient. When the recipient is granted reply status, the e-mail address of the original sender is provided as the reply e-mail address. However, in the event the recipient is not granted reply status, the e-mail address of an automated, unmanned e-mail account is provided as the reply e-mail address.
In one embodiment, the invention provides a method for granularly assigning reply privilege to each recipient of an outgoing e-mail. Utilizing a mail user agent (MUA) such as Eudora™, IBM Lotus Notes™, Microsoft Outlook™, or Outlook Express™, a client creates a single e-mail message addressed to multiple recipients. The creator, or client, of an outgoing e-mail message enters the recipient e-mail addresses into the “To” field of the outgoing message. When a request is made to assign reply privileges to particular recipients, a graphical user interface (GUI) is displayed. The GUI identifies each recipient via the name and/or e-mail address of the recipient, and allows the e-mail creator to assign reply status by group, e-mail address, or name. As the reply assignments are updated on the GUI, the reply fields of the outgoing e-mail are automatically modified.
In another embodiment, the invention provides a method for automatically inputting a message within the body of an e-mail displaying reply instruction. After a client updates the GUI with recipient reply status, instructions are displayed in the body of the e-mail message requesting the recipient to “reply” or “do not reply.” Messages permitting a reply have replies directed to the e-mail address of the original sender. Messages that do not permit a reply are directed to an automated, unmanned e-mail account, in lieu of the reply e-mail address of the original sender.
The above as well as additional objectives, features, and advantages of the present invention will become apparent in the following detailed written description.
The invention itself, as well as a preferred mode of use, further objects, and advantages thereof, will best be understood by reference to the following detailed description of an illustrative embodiment when read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:
The illustrative embodiments provide a method, system and computer program product for assigning reply status to an outgoing electronic mail (e-mail) message. While creating an e-mail message, an interface is utilized is provided for granularly assigning or denying reply privileges to recipients of an outgoing e-mail message. Reply status is assigned by selecting a subset of recipients by name, e-mail address, and/or e-mail group who may reply to the e-mail. As the recipient's reply status is modified, the outgoing e-mail is updated, revising the reply e-mail address for each recipient. When the recipient is granted reply status, the e-mail address of the original sender is provided as the reply e-mail address. However, in the event the recipient is not granted reply status, the e-mail address of an automated, unmanned e-mail account is provided as the reply e-mail address.
In the following detailed description of exemplary embodiments of the invention, specific exemplary embodiments in which the invention may be practiced are described in sufficient detail to enable those skilled in the art to practice the invention, and it is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and that logical, architectural, programmatic, mechanical, electrical and other changes may be made without departing from the spirit or scope of the present invention. The following detailed description is, therefore, not to be taken in a limiting sense, and the scope of the present invention is defined only by the appended claims.
Within the descriptions of the figures, similar elements are provided similar names and reference numerals as those of the previous figure(s). Where a later figure utilizes the element in a different context or with different functionality, the element is provided a different leading numeral representative of the figure number (e.g, 1xx for
It is understood that the use of specific component, device and/or parameter names are for example only and not meant to imply any limitations on the invention. The invention may thus be implemented with different nomenclature/terminology utilized to describe the components/devices/parameters herein, without limitation. Each term utilized herein is to be given its broadest interpretation given the context in which that term is utilized.
With reference now to the figures,
DPS 100 is also illustrated with a network interface device (NID) 150, with which DPS 100 connects to one or more servers 165 via an access network, such as the Internet 170 or Intranet 175. In the described embodiments, Internet 170 is a worldwide collection of networks and gateways that utilize the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) suite of protocols to communicate with one another. Of course, network access may also be provided via a number of different types of networks, such as an intranet, a local area network (LAN), a virtual private network (VPN), or other wide area network (WAN) other than the Internet, for example.
Notably, in addition to the above described hardware components of DPS 100, various features of the invention are completed via software (or firmware) code or logic stored within system memory 115 or other storage (e.g., storage 117) and executed by CPU 105. Thus, illustrated within system memory 115 are a number of software/firmware components, including operating system (OS) 130 (e.g., Microsoft Windows®, a trademark of Microsoft Corp, or GNU®/Linux®, registered trademarks of the Free Software Foundation and The Linux Mark Institute), applications 135, mail user agent (MUA) 145, such as Eudora™, IBM Lotus Notes™, Microsoft Outlook™, or Outlook Express™, and recipient reply selection (RRS) utility 140. In actual implementation, applications 135, MUA 140, and RRS utility 140 may be combined as a single application collectively providing the various functions of each individual software component when the corresponding code is executed by CPU 105. For simplicity, RRS utility 140 is illustrated and described as a downloadable enhancement to MUA 140 or software modification which provides specific functions, as described below.
CPU 105 executes RRS utility 140, MUA 145, and OS 130, which supports the user interface features of RRS utility 140 and MUA 145. In the illustrative embodiment, RRS utility 140 provides several graphical user interfaces (GUIs) to enable user interaction with, or manipulation of, the functional features of the utility (140). Among the software code/instructions provided by RRS utility 140, and which are specific to the invention, are: (a) code for displaying a graphical user interface for assigning reply status to outgoing e-mail; (b) code for assigning reply status to an e-mail; and (c) code for assigning or denying privilege to reply to an e-mail for a subset of recipients. For simplicity of the description, the collective body of code that enables these various features is referred to herein as RRS utility 140. According to the illustrative embodiment, when CPU 110 executes RRS utility 140, DPS 100 initiates a series of functional processes that enable the above functional features as well as additional functionalities, which are described below within the description of
Those of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that the hardware and basic configuration depicted in
With reference now to
In one embodiment, when a reply e-mail is sent from recipient computer systems 208 of recipient subset X 204, the e-mail is returned to the e-mail address of the original sender, represented by client computer system 200. Recipient computer systems 210 of recipient subset Y 206 are not authorized to reply to the e-mail sent by client computer system 200. Reply e-mails from recipient subset Y 206 are unwarranted, therefore all reply e-mails from recipient computer systems 210 are sent to an automated, unmanned e-mail address, or “unwanted e-mail bin” on MUA server 212 via Internet 202.
In one embodiment of the invention, reply e-mails from recipient subset Y 206 may be sent to a secondary e-mail address, forwarded to a junk e-mail account or folder of the sender's MUA, or sent to an alternate folder. A secondary e-mail address may be less frequented, but provided to store the reply e-mails of recipient subset Y 206. In one implementation, reply e-mails from recipient subset Y 206 may be forwarded to a junk e-mail account or alternate folder by checking the “sent from” address within the reply e-mail to determine whether the reply e-mail originated from one of recipient subset X 204 or recipient subset Y 206. When the “sent from” address is one of recipient subset X 204, the e-mail is forwarded to an inbox of the sender, i.e., the MUA on client computer system 200. When the e-mail was sent from one of recipient subset Y 206, the e-mail is forwarded to the junk mail account or an alternate folder.
While illustrated as computer systems, portable devices, e.g. PDAs, cellular phones, Blackberry™, and other devices capable of providing/executing an MUA for sending and receiving e-mails may be utilized in place of computer systems 200, 208, and 210.
Prior to sending the e-mail message, recipient subset X 204 and recipient subset Y 206 are selected utilizing a recipient's name, e-mail address, or group title from a graphical user interface within the MUA.
Displayed in reply privilege GUI 310 are e-mail recipient identities in the form of a names, e-mail address, or group assignment. Allow reply 318 and do not allow reply 320 identify a subset of recipients selected to reply to the outgoing e-mail, and a subset of recipients not allowed to reply. Reply instructions may be automatically added to the body of the e-mail utilizing add message 330 or instructions may be modified utilizing edit 332. Following assignment of reply privilege and upon completion of the e-mail message, the e-mail may be sent by selecting send 324 or the client may leave the MUA interface utilizing exit 326.
In one embodiment of the invention, e-mail recipients are entered in recipient (To) field 302 within e-mail interface 300. After selecting reply privilege 308, reply privilege GUI 310 is displayed. E-mail recipient identity 316 is updated according to the entries of recipient field 302. Recipient reply privilege is assigned by selecting the respective boxes of allow reply 312 and do not allow reply 314. In an example embodiment, allow reply 318 identifies the subset of recipients authorized to reply to the outgoing e-mail message, and do not allow reply 320 identifies the subset of recipients that are not authorized to reply to the outgoing e-mail.
As reply privilege GUI 310 is modified, the reply e-mail address is updated in the outgoing e-mail. E-mail recipients in allow reply 318 are automatically assigned the reply e-mail address of client field 304. E-mail recipients in do not allow reply 320 are assigned the e-mail address of an automated, perhaps unmanned e-mail account. E-mail recipients not selected in allow reply 318 or do not allow reply 320 are assigned the default address of client field 304. The default address may be the sender's address, where selection of “do not reply” is required to forced reply email into another location other than the sender's inbox. In another embodiment, such as where the MUAs is utilized to send out a large amount of spam mail or group mail, the default address may be the address of a separate email account or a directed address link to the junk mailbox of the sender's address. Following all updates to reply privilege GUI 310 and after completion of e-mail message, the e-mail may be sent utilizing send 324 or the client may leave the MUA interface utilizing exit 326.
In one embodiment, the invention provides a method for automatically inputting a message within text field 322 displaying reply instructions for recipients not authorized to reply. A text message prompting recipients not to reply may be added by selecting the “yes” box of add message 330. If the “do not reply” message is not required in the e-mail, the “no” box may be selected. The text of add message 330 may also be changed utilizing edit 332. The text of add message 330 may be modified to direct replies to a particular e-mail address via edit 332.
The process illustrated by
In one embodiment of the invention, a first reply status is automatically assigned to an e-mail being transmitted to one or more first e-mail recipients. The first reply status indicates that the first e-mail recipients are authorized to reply to the e-mail, and enables the reply e-mail to be returned to a primary location, corresponding to the e-mail address from which the e-mail is being transmitted (i.e., sender's e-mail). A second reply status is assigned to the e-mail being sent to second e-mail recipients, who are not among the one or more first e-mail recipients. The second reply status indicates that the second recipients are not authorized to send a reply e-mail, and the reply e-mails from the second recipients are dynamically routed to a secondary location.
In one embodiment selecting recipients comprises detecting a first selection of the one or more first e-mail recipients received by the GUI, and detecting a second selection of the first reply status. First e-mail recipients have the primary location, or sender's e-mail address, automatically associated as the reply address to the e-mail for copies of the e-mail transmitted to the first e-mail recipients. Second e-mail recipients or those not authorized to reply to the sender's e-mail, have e-mail replies automatically linked to a secondary location.
The MUA splits the e-mail transmission so that a first e-mail with a first reply (sender) e-mail address is sent to a first set of recipients, and a second e-mail with a second reply (automated) e-mail address is sent to a second set of recipients.
In the flow charts above, one or more of the methods are embodied in a computer readable medium containing computer readable code such that a series of steps are performed when the computer readable code is executed on a computing device. In some implementations, certain steps of the methods are combined, performed simultaneously or in a different order, or perhaps omitted, without deviating from the spirit and scope of the invention. Thus, while the method steps are described and illustrated in a particular sequence, use of a specific sequence of steps is not meant to imply any limitations on the invention. Changes may be made with regards to the sequence of steps without departing from the spirit or scope of the present invention. Use of a particular sequence is therefore, not to be taken in a limiting sense, and the scope of the present invention is defined only by the appended claims.
As will be further appreciated, the processes in embodiments of the present invention may be implemented using any combination of software, firmware or hardware. As a preparatory step to practicing the invention in software, the programming code (whether software or firmware) will typically be stored in one or more machine readable storage mediums such as fixed (hard) drives, diskettes, optical disks, magnetic tape, semiconductor memories such as ROMs, PROMs, etc., thereby making an article of manufacture in accordance with the invention. The article of manufacture containing the programming code is used by either executing the code directly from the storage device, by copying the code from the storage device into another storage device such as a hard disk, RAM, etc., or by transmitting the code for remote execution using transmission type media such as digital and analog communication links. The methods of the invention may be practiced by combining one or more machine-readable storage devices containing the code according to the present invention with appropriate processing hardware to execute the code contained therein. An apparatus for practicing the invention could be one or more processing devices and storage systems containing or having network access to program(s) coded in accordance with the invention.
Thus, it is important that while an illustrative embodiment of the present invention is described in the context of a fully functional computer (server) system with installed (or executed) software, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the software aspects of an illustrative embodiment of the present invention are capable of being distributed as a program product in a variety of forms, and that an illustrative embodiment of the present invention applies equally regardless of the particular type of media used to actually carry out the distribution.
While the invention has been described with reference to exemplary embodiments, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes may be made and equivalents may be substituted for elements thereof without departing from the scope of the invention. In addition, many modifications may be made to adapt a particular system, device or component thereof to the teachings of the invention without departing from the essential scope thereof. Therefore, it is intended that the invention not be limited to the particular embodiments disclosed for carrying out this invention, but that the invention will include all embodiments falling within the scope of the appended claims. Moreover, the use of the terms first, second, etc. do not denote any order or importance, but rather the terms first, second, etc. are used to distinguish one element from another.
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|U.S. Classification||709/206, 709/201|
|Jul 19, 2007||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORPORATION, NEW Y
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:JANAKIRAMAN, JANANI;VAIDYANATHAN, BASU;REEL/FRAME:019576/0728
Effective date: 20070718
|Sep 5, 2014||REMI||Maintenance fee reminder mailed|
|Jan 25, 2015||LAPS||Lapse for failure to pay maintenance fees|
|Mar 17, 2015||FP||Expired due to failure to pay maintenance fee|
Effective date: 20150125